U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that several thousand ancient artifacts that were illegally smuggled to Hobby Lobby are on their way back to Iraq.
When they were sent to the retailer, the artifacts were labeled as "tile samples," CNN reports. Hobby Lobby agreed last July to give the ancient items back and pay a $3 million fine. ICE says it returned 3,800 artifacts, including cuneiform tablets and clay bullae. "This is really important to us," Iraqi Ambassador to the U.S. Fareed Yasseen said. "You have to understand that in Iraq, memories are long, and so we really have a sense of kinship to these artifacts."
Department of Justice officials said the cuneiform tablets and clay bullae, which dated back to 2100 BC, were smuggled to the U.S. through the United Arab Emirates and Israel, arriving at Hobby Lobby stores and two corporate offices. Last year, Hobby Lobby's president opened a Bible museum in Washington with about 40,000 artifacts, CNN reports.